Power Steering Warning Light (What Causes It?)

John Tucker

By: John Tucker

The power steering warning light coming on in your car is bound to make you worried, especially as it tends to coincide with a total loss of power steering, making it much harder for you to steer your vehicle.

If you’ve ever driven a car with manual steering, you know how hard it can be. If you’ve always driven cars with power steering, suddenly losing it can be a shock.

What causes the power steering light to come on?

For vehicles with hydraulic power steering, the most common reason for the power steering warning light is that the fluid level is low. This is often caused by a leak in one of the hoses.

If you’re driving along and you notice your power steering light come on – which looks like a steering wheel with an exclamation mark next to it – you should park your car in a safe place as soon as you can, taking extra care as you’ll be struggling a little with much heavier steering.

Open your bonnet and locate your steering wheel fluid reservoir. This may have an image of a steering wheel on the cap. If not, you may need to consult your owner’s handbook to help you find where it is.

Have a look at the fluid level. If it looks a little low, you’ll need to top up the reservoir with more fluid before you continue on your journey. You probably won’t have any to hand so you’ll have to pop to your local supplier to pick some up.

Once you’ve topped up your power steering fluid, start your engine. If the warning light doesn’t come on again, you may continue on your journey. If the power steering light remains illuminated, it’s the sign of something more serious and you should take your car to your local garage as soon as possible to have the problem diagnosed.

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What if I see an EPS light?

EPS stands for Electric Power Steering and will come on in vehicles that do not have hydraulic power steering. Rather than use hydraulics, the control module in the EPS system receives information from the steering angle sensor. This in turn controls the steering motor to provide power assisted steering.

If you see the EPS warning light come on in your vehicle, you won’t have any fluid levels to check, so it may be more difficult to find out what’s causing the light to come on.

It can sometimes be caused by a fault with the battery or alternator, so you can carefully check all connections to the battery and see if there’s any visible wear or damage.

This issue with the EPS light can also be caused if you have recently had to jump start your car, or you’ve disconnected the battery.

Occasionally, the problem can be fixed by simply turning your vehicle off and on again. If this does work, you should still take your vehicle to your local garage to be checked as there could be an underlying issue.

Is it safe to drive with the power steering light on?

It’s not going to be easy, as the steering will be heavier and turning will be more difficult. It will also be almost impossible to react to events at higher speeds, so accidents will be far more likely.

If the light comes on when you’re near home, you’re probably alright to continue your journey safely, taking extra care, however if you’re far from home we would recommend that you stop as soon as possible and inspect your car in a safe place.

Either way, the steering wheel warning light can be a clear sign that something is wrong with your power steering system and you should have your car inspected by a qualified technician as soon as possible.

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If you’ve seen another warning light and you’re unsure what it is, you may want to read Dashboard Warning Lights: What They Mean.